Presentation of a Testimonial to the Rev John Davies, Aberaman
At Saron Chapel, on Monday evening last, the Rev. J. Davies was presented with an address and testimonial on the occasion of his leaving Aberaman for Cardiff. A graceful tribute of respect was also paid to Mrs Davies, who was presented .with a substantial testimonial. The chapel was crowded. The chair was ably filled by Thomas Williams, Esq., High Constable of Aberdare, who introduced the business of the evening in an appropriate speech. He said he would have been glad if some one of the noted men around him had been voted to the chair, as he felt particularly unequal to the work, He would not keep them long and considering that about thirty well known public men were to take part in the meeting, he hoped to set the example of being brief. He, like the people of Aberdare generally, regretted Mr Davies’s departure. He had hoped that he would have lived find died in their midst. They were not there that day not merely to utter words of praise and regret, but to present something that would last when the present generation had passed away.
They intended giving Mr Davies a memento of their respect which would survive future generations. He then proceeded to enumerate Mr Davies’s good qualities and said whatever he took in hand to do, he did with all his might. He was an excellent preacher, but good preachers were often anything but good pastors. He excelled as a pastor. As a public man he was known throughout Wales not merely denominational and local movements secured his co-operation, but his sympathy was with everything good. He had served with him on many committees and always with sincere pleasure. Mr. Williams then referred at some length to the part Mr. Davies took in making the arrangements connected with the reception of the autumnal meetings of the Congregational Union of England and Wales in 1859.
He then proceeded to refer to Mr Davies’s connection with the London Missionary Society, Home Missionary Society, the Society for promoting English Congregational extension in South Wales, and the Pastor’s Retiring Fund, concluding a highly complementary speech by wishing Mr Davies all the prosperity he deserved.
Mr John Jones, one of the deacons of Saron Chapel, then moved the following resolution: – “That the Saron Independent Church wishes to express its highest appreciation of the power, character, labours, and influence of the Rev J. Davies, during the 9 years of his pastorate its deep regret at his departure its warmest wishes for Ms welfare, and that of his partner; and its earnest prayer that the Head of the Church may prosper him at Cardiff.”
This was seconded by Mr John Williams, another deacon, who spoke of Mr Davies in very complimentary terms, and referred in a similar manner to the good deeds of Mrs Davies who, he said, if anything, excelled her husband, in pastoral labours.
The resolution was then cordially adopted by all the members of the church. The chairman next read letters from the Rev. W. Edwards, Aberdare; D. Richards, Caerphilly, and a few others, expressing regret at their unavoidable absence. A letter from Mr. C. Griffiths thanking Mr and Mrs Davies for their kind co-operation with him as master of the Day-school, connected with Saron Chapel. The Rev. Thomas Price then, in a speech of considerable length, moved the following resolution: – “That the various religious denominations of Aberdare, desire publicly to express their high opinion of the beneficial influence which the pure life, kind spirit, persevering character, great talents, and extraordinary exertions of the Rev John Davies, during the period of his ministry in this place, have left upon all. They also desire to express their regret at his leaving the neighbourhood, and offer their heartfelt prayer that the Lord may bless him abundantly in the new sphere of his labours.”
In moving the resolution the reverend speaker eulogised Mr Davies, stating that he had taken part in all those movements which have had for their object the assertion of the rights of dissenters to equal civil privileges with churchmen. He thought if Mr Davies was a little man he was a great workman. (Laughter). As an outsider of the Independent denomination, he begged to say that his (Mr Davies’s) removal was regretted by all the members of the Baptist body and by none more than by the speaker. They had co-operated as editors of the same newspaper; they had different departments, and he always found that, when pressed for time, Mr. Davies was ready to give a helping hand. Aberdare could ill afford to lose such men, and his departure was therefore very much regretted. After expressing his great esteem for Mr Davies as an earnest Christian, the speaker sat dawn amidst much applause. The Rev. T. Rees, Calvinistic Methodist Minister, seconded the resolution proposed by Mr. Price, and expressed the great regard in which be held Mr Davies. The resolution, which was unanimously adopted, was supported by the Rev T. Nicholas, Baptist Minister, Rev. W. Williams, and Mr D. Davies, Gadlys Works, each of whom spoke in terms of high praise of Mr. Davies. The next solution which was as follows, was then moved by the Rev. D. Rees, Llanelly:-
“That this meeting desires to place on record its appreciation of the valuable services rendered by, Mr Davies to the Welsh Press for many years his untiring activity in the promotion of public movements generally, and those of his own denomination in particular, together with his continued devotion to the interests of his country.”
Mr Rees said he had been for thirty five years at Llanelli, and they had given him no testimonial. Mr. Davies’s presentation would be a temptation to removal, for he thought it probable that it he were to remove, he also should have one. He was glad to find his neighbours and co. workers praise Mr. Davies. Many were great from home, but small men at home. It was just so in te present case. Many a bubble of a man had got up to the surface for a short time, but he was soon lost again. Nothing but merit could keep a man near the top for a number of years; therefore Mr Davies must profess sterling qualities. Mr Rees concluded an effective speech by stating that Mr Davies had proved himself a patriot, a philanthropist; a Christian, a good preacher, in fact, everything desirable. He had done good service with the press, and he hoped to see the press continue to have, as it now had, the greatest influence in Wales next to the pulpit.
The Rev John Thomas, Liverpool, in seconding the resolution, said he had known Mr Davies for 22 years, and had co-operated with him in carrying on the Welsh reviews, “Yr Adolygydd” and “Y Beirniad.” He could corroborate the statements of previous speakers. He could not say that he much regretted Mr Davies’s departure from Aberaman, as it would be only a local loss. It would be no loss to the Welsh people, to Dissent, to religion, nor the denomination, He hoped ere long ne would get another testimonial for not removing from Cardiff.
The resolution was supported by Mr Griffiths, London Correspondent of the “Baner ac Amserau Cymru” newspaper. He said he was personally under no particular obligation to Mr Davies but, as one who from his vocation was coming continually in contact with public men, he highly valued him, as a Welshman, as a Dissenter, and as an Independent especially. He had heard the great orators of the House of Commons often-Peel, Graham, Palmerston, Gladstone, and others, and had some chance of knowing something of tactics. He regarded Mr Davies as a tactician of the first order, and cited his speeches last year at the Neath, and Carmarthen Bicentenary Conferences as illustration.
Were it not for Mr Davies, the deputation to Earl Granville on Education in Wales would not have been so successful, and he feared Wales did not rightly value its public men. The resolution was then carried unanimously.
At this stage of the proceedings, Mr. David Jenkins, a deacon of Saron church, then, amid cheering, presented a purse of gold to Mr Davies, as a parting tribute of good will from the church. Mr. John Jones, another of the deacons, said his feelings would not allow him to express what he and the other members of the church felt towards Mr Davies. He had been a dear master to them. They all knew of his goodness, laborious disposition, and careful pastoral supervision. When he came there the church only numbered 154 members. Two new churches were formed after a few years, viz., Cwmaman and Abercwmboi, and over 600 members had been received by Mr Davies into the communion of the church. The chapel was rebuilt soon after he came there, and they had recently enlarged the schoolroom.
Mr. Thomas Jenkins, the fifth deacon who took part in the proceedings, now got up to present a handsome inkstand to Mrs Davies, given by the young women of the congregation. He said if they could not give as much as the others, their wish to honour Mrs Davies was quite as great. The Rev H. G. Parrish, B.A., then came forward and read the following address, which had, been prepared by the Committee, but more particularly by the reverend gentleman himself:- Rev and Dear Sir, it is with feelings of the deepest regret that we learn of your intended departure from Aberdare. Though we would not assume the right of criticizing the decision to which you have arrived, we cannot but feel sorry that you should have felt justified in deciding to leave a neighbourhood, in which you have been, and, we doubt not, would continue to be, of so much essential service. The high appreciation which we have of your public merit and private worth, whilst it renders the parting painful, would not permit your numerous friends to take leave of you without presenting a substantial and, we trust, welcome token of their regard. The accompanying present, however, is rather a sign than the measure of their esteem.
It is not given to every man to possess a union of qualities which are severally and unitedly deserving of praise. To you, Sir, have been given powers of no mean order, and we ;are glad, at ;this parting moment, to call to mind how those powers have been used, as becomes an intelligent man and sincere Christian your loss will be readily felt but not easily repaired.
Aberdare as a new town, the centre of commercial interests, which are rapidly increasing, both in extent and importance, has great need of men who are alive to the wants of the age, and have honesty sufficient to enable them to use their interest and ability in aid of any great movement likely to advance the well-being of society. In all such movements you have boldly, deservedly, and successfully held foremost rank. In every political agitation, in which a minister can consistently take part, your presence and counsel have been weighty. Asa man who could overstep the boundaries of a sect and work for the good of humanity, you have secured many friends who, without sharing your religious views, cannot remain unconscious of many sterling Qualities which characterize you both as a man and as a Christian, and we do not hesitate to affirm that you will leave a mark behind you which will tell for good on after generations.
The local press will lose in you a ready and efficient aid. The Gwron, and Gwladgarwr have each, from time to time, been enriched by contributions from your pen, and owe their success in no slight degree to the help which you have afforded.
The members of the various religious denominations in this town and neighbourhood have learnt to esteem you as a large-hearted Christian, whilst those of your own body have had in you one who on all occasions of public interest could represent them with effect and credit. Nor will it soon be forgotten how much the success which attended the meetings of the Congregational Union in Aberdare was owing to your active exertions as secretary of the managing Committee.
We can sympathize with the feelings expressed by those over which for nine years you have exercised pastoral supervision, and are quite sure that, in your removal, your church and congregation are deprived of a strong, intelligent, and earnest minister.
The sadness occasioned by your leaving must be mingled with grateful recollections of what has been accomplished since you entered upon your labours as minister of Saron. During your pastorate the church and congregation have become one of the most numerous in South Wales.
It seems to us that Aberaman can ill afford to lose you, but we trust the step you are about to take is ordered by that Divine Wisdom which is our only sure guidance. We would pray that the change may prove an undoubted benefit to yourself, to the church, and to the public generally. It is a cause of gratulation that you are not to be removed to any great distance, and it must afford satisfaction to your countrymen to know that your labours are to be continued within the boundaries of the Principality.
Seeing that Cardiff is to be your future home, we would fain express a hope that your sympathy and help will still be forthcoming, and that amid new duties and associations Aberdare will not be forgot- ten by you, as, we feel sure, you will not be forgotten at Aberdare.
Nor would we forget to record our grateful esteem for Mrs Davies, whose devotion in the cause of our Divine Master has made her memory dear to all who have had the happiness of knowing her.
We cannot complete our task, at once pleasant and painful, without heartily congratulating you on the future of happy usefulness which seems opening out before you. Since you must be removed, we are glad to know that one of the principal towns in the United Kingdom is about to be the scene of your labour, and we pray the Almighty Father your life may be prolonged, your success continued and increased, and your course of toil be followed by that honourable reward and satisfactory rest which await the faithful servants of the Most High.
Signed on behalf of the committee, THOMAS WILLIAMS, Chairman. E. G. PRICE, Treasurer. Walter Lloyd, Secretary.
In presenting it to Mr. Davies, Mr. Parish said he had great pleasure in placing it in his hands) and was very glad that his claims had not been overlooked. The address was beautifully engrossed in Old English letters on Vellum, by Mr. Ivan Jones, and was one of the finest specimens of penmanship we have ever seen.
The chairman then called upon the Rev R. Gwesyn Jones, Merthyr, who said he was glad that Mr Davies was going to Cardiff, for he was anxious to see their denomination take a more advanced position there than it had yet done. Who knew but that Mr. Davies’s services would be very valuable as secretary of an autumnal meeting of the Congregational Union at Cardiff. Englishmen’s notions of them were, no doubt, improving, but they were not yet what they ought to be. They wanted to have thorough ought to be. They wanted to have thorough Welshmen in places where their English brethren might see them and he thought Mr. Davies at Cardiff would do much good in that way.
Mrs W. Edwards, Ebenezer, then presented Mr. Davies with a magnificent gold watch and a handsome massive gold chain. On the watch was engraved, “Presented, with a purse of gold, the Rev John Davies, Aberaman, by his friends, on his leaving the neighbourhood.”
Mr. E. G. Price, making an appropriate speech, presented the purse to Mrs Davies. It was heavy, he said, and he hoped she would never live to see the bottom of it. He complimented Mrs Davies on the estimable manner in which she bad exemplified what a minister’s wife should be.
Both Mr and Mrs Davies were evidently much moved.
Mr. Davies, who spoke with some difficulty, thanked the various friends who had evinced such a tender and lively interest in him. He referred in appropriate terms to his connection with the, Saron church and its deacons, and shook hands I with Mr. John Williams, the senior of them, wishing it to be understood that he would be triad if all the members would consider that equivalent to shaking the hands of each individual. He then referred to his connection with the chairman, the Revs. T. Price, W. Edwards, (whose absence he regretted) D Price, J. Morgan, Cwmbach W. Williams, Hirwain, and J. Rees Cwmaman; T. Rees, (and his Calvinistic Methodist friends.) T. Nicholas (and his Baptist friends), J. Thomas, Liverpool; Mr. Griffiths, the Baner correspondent, and especially Mr Stephens, Brychgoed, for he regarded him as a father. He heard him (Mr. Davies) deliver his first sermon on a three-legged stool in a thatched cottage and had at all times helped him by his counsel. He had said a great deal to the church before that evening, but wished to say something of them now. He would never wish to have better deacons; in fact they had always allowed him to have his own way. Peace and tranquillity had reigned in the church during the 9 years he had been its pastor, and he had no cause of trouble from one end of the year to the other. He then referred to the new sphere of his labours, Cardiff. He disclaimed any intention of going there with a view to raise dissent.
Dissent was well represented there by our Baptist friends and should be glad to co-operate with the noble men already in the field. What he sought was a smaller chapel and less work. He possessed but a little body and that not over strong, so he trusted the change would prove beneficial to his health. Mr. Davies resumed his seat amidst repeated applause.
The Rev. J. Stephens, Brychcoed, next addressed the meeting and said he had known Mr Davies as a member, as a preacher, as a student, and a minister.
The Rev H. Oliver, B.A., said that Aberdare had honoured itself by that meeting. Mr Davies would have been looked upon none the less outside of Aberdare if he had received no testimonial, but the men of Aberdare would have been decidedly lowered in public estimation; they would have shown that they had no eye to see true greatness. But he was glad it was otherwise. He wished the churches of the iron districts to endeavour to find out the reason that they lost their best men: Dr. Rees had left Beaufort, the Rev. O. Jones Dowlais, the Rev. D. Sanders Aberdare, the Rev. E. Jones Ynysgau, the Rev. B. Williams Dowlais, the Rev N. Stephens and the Rev. R. Ellis Sirhowy, the Rev. J. Emlyn Jones Ebbw Vale, and lastly though not least, Mr Davies from Aberaman. Something was wrong, and the sooner it was discovered and righted the better.
The chairman, at Mrs Davies’s request then moved that the thanks of the meeting be given to the committee; this was seconded by the Rev. T. Llewellyn, Mountain Ash, and carried unanimously. Mr P. John acknowledged the vote on behalf of the Committee, stating that the, friends who formed the committee did not endeavour to find out whether the step Mr. Davies was taking was right or not, but as they knew Mr. Davies was deserving they resolved to show their appreciation of his most valuable services. A hearty vote of thanks to the chairman brought the proceedings, which were throughout of a most pleasant and harmonious character to a close.
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